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Starting In Residential Assisted Living: Marketing vs. Sales

Starting In Residential Assisted Living: Marketing vs. Sales

Marketing and sales are two uniquely different components that rely on one another, but do not confuse the two, particularly not now in residential assisted living. Marketing and sales are related somewhat like a married man is to his mother-in-law. That relationship could be loving and caring, or it could be antagonistic.  

The three common culprits of a bad relationship between marketing and sales is:

  1. miscommunication
  2. misunderstanding
  3. lack of consideration

Regardless of which applies to you, all of these culprits lead to dysfunction.  This unfortunately is the tense relationship of marketing and sales in many organizations. It is completely confounding how some organizations and industries define marketing and sales as the same thing – they are not. They are not interchangeable nor is expert knowledge in one identical to that of the other. Each is its own discipline and requires proper education and training in order to fulfill either successfully. When it comes to senior living, in other words to your Residential Assisted Living home, the confusion between marketing and sales is just as prevalent as it is in other industries. 

In large established organizations such as AOL, H.J. Heinz, and P&G, marketing is the think-tank. The marketing department is consumer-centric and conducts in depth analysis and study that explain what the consumer wants, needs, will and will not purchase. These studies also examine what the consumer thinks about certain products, services and their means of making a purchase decision. This data contributes to essential decision-making in these large organizations, and also drives how these organizations structure themselves. Data also help organizations develop strategies to engage the consumer with predictable success. For your RAL home, do you have such a think tank? Do you partner with a company that provides such data to small businesses? Have you considered factoring hard-core marketing data into your decision-making process? If not, you should.  It could be the difference between a fully occupied residential assisted living home vs. an empty one. Marketing focuses much of its energies on what will drive the 4 Ps:  Product, Pricing, Promotion, and Place. 

  • Product – an actual item or service. 

a) For your RAL home, it is the exceptional high-quality service of care provided by the owner and staff.

  • Pricing – should be based on value and market. 

a)     Lower price does not always translate to great purchase. A good pricing strategy will leverage the value of the product or service.

  • Promotion – who is informed, when are they informed and how are they informed about your RAL home.
  • Place – where is your RAL located and where do you find the right clients for your RAL.

Included in your Marketing Plan is branding, positioning, target market, and new product development, as well as contributing to overall business strategies. While concise, this is essentially what a true marketing department does. Notice how sales isn’t even mentioned when defining the details of marketing. In well run organizations, sales take the research of the marketing department and dissects it.  They peel back the layers to determine how to use this information to take a product or service to market.  

This data drives how the sales department will create: 

  • proper messaging
  • targeting
  • timing
  • frequency

Marketing drives brand or product awareness, consideration, and adoption, while sales ensures that those who are interested in your product turn consideration into a purchase. When this understanding is clear, the husband has a great relationship with his mother-in-law, which means your residential assisted living home is likely to be more successful.

The Digital World

This becomes particularly important in the present era of digital marketing, where basic marketing tactics like flyers, print ads, direct mail, and brochures will no longer do the trick. No paper passing happens online.  

Digital marketing and consumer-informed marketing strategies require much more sophisticated skills and experience. Consider the following questions:

  • What is your digital presence?  
  • Is your RAL home easily found online? 
  • Does your RAL home engage with clients electronically?  

If your RAL is absent online or barely present, many opportunities are being missed. However, even in the year 2020, many companies are behaving like dinosaurs. Marketing and sales require different leaders with different skill sets. When examining your residential assisted living business, determine which skill set is lacking? So often, it is marketing, because many business owners do not understand or value the benefit of marketing intelligence.  

In the digital economy, marketing intelligence is essential to success, as well as effectively defining the difference between marketing and sales. Therefore, collaboration between the two is incredibly important. Confusion between the two will result in chaos that decreases revenue.  However, when the two are working in tandem with one another, the results speak for themselves. Collaboration is the key to success and failure, especially in the digital world.

There Are Other Options

While residential assisted living homes focused on senior living, they are not nursing home facilities. As such, they must operate with precision. The key to the success of RAL homes is size and location. Its small size gives it a far greater value proposition than a nursing facility.  Therefore, owners must be focused and intentional about its operations.

Have you thought about creating a position called a chief revenue officer (CRO)?  This position is a highly coveted marketing position because:  

  • Good marketing intelligence will drive increasing revenues.  
  • This role has been shown to drive the joint objectives and vision of your RAL by fostering collaboration between it and sales. 

Sales is not just the person talking with prospective residents, but a successful RAL business relies on all employees to function to some degree as a sales agent. They are ambassadors of your brand. Exceptional service in all areas drives retention, which creates financial stability for the entire organization. As such, the CRO becomes the conductor in the orchestra, ensuring everyone does their part to deliver the symphony. It is their job to make sure there is a continuous feedback and collaboration loop between sales and marketing. Sales must feel comfortable providing feedback to marketing about how effective their efforts are. Marketing must feel comfortable taking feedback from sales – together they have a single goal of achieving revenue objectives. 

What Is Most Important?

If you accept sales and marketing as two different areas of expertise and in need of an executive heading both sales and marketing, you must decide which of the two skill sets is most important. If it’s marketing, hire a seasoned sales leader to report into the marketing executive.

A marketing function should not only own the RAL brand and positioning, but it also should:

  • Be responsible for bringing the brand to life through all customer touchpoints. This includes the selling process. 
  • Create consistency through aligned marketing activities.
    1. Traditional marketing channels
    2. Digital marketing channels
    3. Communication channels such as radio, television and Google ads.

Combined with this is sales training, which contributes to the brand equity of your assisted living business over time. However, if the priority is sales leadership and expertise, hire a full-time or contracted senior strategic marketer to provide sophisticated marketing skills. As described in the bestseller Good to Great, the best leaders recognize their weaknesses and hire people to fill those gaps in expertise. This reflects strength, not weakness, and delivers better business results.

As senior living moves through and beyond COVID-19 with the goal of making up census declines, organizational structure, and return on investments, internal expertise will be increasingly critical. Marketing will be more essential than ever because key aspects concerning the consumer have changed. In some instances, the consumer has been on hold awaiting the opening of new residential assisted living homes. Will they be able to find your new RAL home?  Will you be able to find the right residents for your business model? 

What’s The Difference In 2020: Sales Vs Marketing?

There is no doubt the internet has fundamentally changed the way people buy, and this upheaval has helped make fortunes for certain businesses. These businesses are often those that choose to stay nimble and adjust, even as the ground shifts beneath them.

Sales and marketing have been elements of business since the days of bartering, but they are constantly evolving, especially in the past 2 decades.

  • Roughly 70-percent of buying decisions are made before a shopper talks to a salesperson. 

a)     Customers are self-educated by way of website content. 

b)     What are customers learning about your RAL online?

  • Consumers are far more informed about products and services prior to talking with a representative than ever before in history.
  • Consumers today inform organizations about what they expect, want, will pay for and in some instances how much they are willing to pay. Many consumers have already done comparative pricing.
  • Consumers have read the reviews of your residential assisted living business, which include all staff. If they visit your home, they are impressed with what others had to say.

How does all of this affect your residential assisted living business?  Your digital presence must be above par with that of your competitors. Potential residents and their families should feel that they already know a plethora about your home. It becomes the job of the salesperson to bridge the gap between their electronic understanding and the reality of the home, which should be nearly the same. Clarity and confirmation become the aim of these sales professionals. 

What Is Marketing?

Simply put, marketing is any business action that creates interest or gathers knowledge about a potential buyer or customer. In a more traditional model from previous generations, this meant creating advertisements and buying media space to get those ads in front of consumers. In the world of inbound digital marketing, this means creating content that informs website visitors about how your assisted living home can help solve their problems. Where will your residential assisted living business fit into this paradigm?  

What Is Sales?

Traditionally, sales took over once a business knew a prospect existed. If an advertisement got someone into a store, a salesperson took it from there. At companies practicing inbound and content marketing, the salespeople still function in a similar way, but much of the heavy lifting is done by the digital footprint of your brand. In addition to all of the information a prospect may have gathered from online resources, they have also begun to trust the business that has shared that content. Trust is the currency of all business. It is crucial, fragile, and slow to develop. If businesses can begin to cultivate trust by way of their websites, the sales process can be shortened accordingly. While the digital world has adjusted how sales professionals get involved, the reality is sales professionals still must get involved.  

In the residential assisted living industry, families do not turn over their loved ones to a computer.  They leave them in the hands of trustworthy people. Therefore, staff and caregivers are essential. How do your sales professionals, which encompasses all staff, engage and interact with your current residents? When prospects tour your home, how does the staff interact with them?  What do residents say about your home? All of these questions and answers will dictate the success of your business.

The Tools That Help Sales And Marketing Gain Success

Digital marketing requires digital management.  How will you keep up with all of the data that will come your way? How will you keep track of who inquired, what they inquired about, when they expect an answer? There are a lot of questions and answers that range from A-Z that the Residential Assisted Living Academy will help you explore. Join us today and let’s get your journey off on the right foot. Marketing and sales might seem to be a lot to digest; however, we have experts that will point you in the right direction.

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Gene Guarino


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